Thursday, August 18, 2011

Back to Business, the Brother International convention -- Nashville TN

On the morning of Day 21 of my 28 day trip, it was back to the airport in Lincoln NE, about an hour and a half drive from Kearney. I hopped on a Delta flight to Nashville TN where the Brother International Sewing Machine Company's annual convention, Back to Business, was to be held. I was very excited to be part of the team introducing a new machine to the Laura Ashley line. It's a beautiful machine with a very feminine look -- it IS a Laura Ashley, after all -- and she's PINK!

I had been sewing on a Brother Quattro machine for about a year when I switched to the NX-2000, the wider armed of the two Laura Ashley machines. I wanted to learn this machine because I thought it would be a really good machine for quilters. It's very well equipped, coming with the standard accessories you would expect a sewing machine to have, plus a single hole throat plate, three free motion feet, a quarter inch foot with guide, a walking foot (although it is a closed sole plate; more on that later in this post) and a good sized extension table. I've had some fun with her, done some piecing and some quilting and been very happy with my results.

The Laura Ashley machines and the Quattro (and probably other Brother machines as well; these are the ones that I have spent quality time with, though, and know the most about) are equipped with what I think is the easiest and most reliable needle threader in the business. If the sewer uses the needle up button on the face of the machine rather than the hand wheel to position the needle, the threader will work every single time, even on slippery and fragile threads that I am accustomed to threading manually.

The new Laura Ashley machine is a super addition to that line, coming in at the top. It will be equipped similarly to the NX-2000 (the one I call "Laura"); the main differences that I could see immediately were that it includes an embroidery module and doesn't include the extension table. However, I think it has the same footprint as my Laura, so my Sew Steady table should fit both.

I think she's beautiful! And did I mention that she's PINK?

Her name is Isodore; I am told that that is the name of one of the little flowers that frequently appears in Laura Ashley designs. As I write this, I am in Salt Lake City at the Ivy Place location of Nuttall's Sewing Centers, a Brother dealer. We are planning to un-box the new machine this morning --Rhonda and I are calling her Izzy!

Now I am by no means an embroidery expert, so I was partnered with Carol Bell, one of the Brother educators, in the Isodore classroom. She explained all of the embroidery related features of the machine to the Brother dealers attending our seminar. Carol and I gave the same 1-1/2 hour presentation 10 times! We got pretty good at it!

This is one of the 50 Laura Ashley embroidery designs that are installed on Isodore; I played a bit and saw many other designs. Brother machines are known for embroidering Disney designs, but that is not the focus of this machine. None of the Disney designs are included with this model nor is the machine Disney card compatible; however, Disney designs are available from and can be purchased from there, downloaded and stitched out on Isodore.

Carol also pointed out some of the other things that come with the machine: a circular sewing attachment, a kit for bobbin work, software for monogramming, etc. I'll have a better idea of the whole package when Isodore starts arriving in stores.

What I got excited about is that in my opinion the only walking foot a quilter needs is one that has an open toed sole plate; I only use my walking foot for straight quilting and if I can't see it, I can't quilt it. A closed toe sole plate blocks my view and therefore I think it's pretty much useless for the type of sewing that I do.

So I was talking with Dean Schulman, the President of the U.S. branch of Brother Int'l; when asked what I would do to broaden the appeal of the Laura Ashley machines to quilters, I said that I would come out with a machine specifically accessorized for quilters that included an open toed walking foot. He said, "We can do that!"; they had a few meetings about it while convention was still in session and on the last day Dean told me that it was a done deal -- how is that for a quick response from a very big company!

I got so carried away about the walking foot that I almost didn't show you the wheeled trolley that also comes with Isodore so that we can take her everywhere with us! I know that the trolley that I have for my Laura has really come in handy for retreats and other places I have wanted to take her.

During our seminars, dealers got to play with Isodore -- they embroidered out a quilting design in the center of a piece of muslin, layered it with backing and batting and then played with free motion.

I showed a couple of things that I had done to embellish the same embroidery design and then dealers got to play in a creative way....

Loved this free motion -- really jazzed up the very basic embroidery design! I photographed a few of these, but there were so many individual variations....

How fun is this!

This morning I actually get to look at everything, set up the machine and sew -- Hooray!!

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